Three tales about the hermit-like Prince Zaleski, "lurid and inscrutable as a falling star," whom we're told without further explanation was a "victim of a too importunate, too unfortunate Love, which the fulgor of the throne itself could not abash; exile perforce from his native land, and voluntary exile from the rest of men.” Zaleski is a kind of armchair detective. His friend brings him news of puzzling crimes, which he solves without leaving his gloomy abode, a mostly ruined "vast palace of the older world standing lonely in the midst of woodland, and approached by a sombre avenue of poplars and cypresses, through which the sunlight hardly pierced," where the prince lives alone with his Ethiopian servant, smoking cannabis, immersed in arcane studies and surrounded by exotic curios. The trio of tales are all written in flowery, archaic language, and since there's no action, rather dull.
An elderly Kentucky woman, an inveterate quilter and flower gardener, imparts her reminiscences and wisdom to a young friend in this charming book, first published in 1898. Her stories are heartwarming and funny, though you might not want read them all at one sitting. Too much at once starts to be cloying, but anyone who shares a love for Aunt Jane's pastimes will certainly want to read this.
The mystery is all right, the solution quite surprising, and the story contains a lot of complex elements — murder, a lost will, old family feuds, unclaimed sons and more — but the execution is plodding.
The author has a long introduction in which he says this is the worst book he ever wrote. I haven't read all his other books, so I can't judge whether he's right, but he ought to know. All I can say is that I didn't enjoy this one.
The story is a fairly disdainful look at a squabbling family of "Cits" — a money-grubbing father, three flirtatious daughters and a nebbishy son — plus a handsome fool, the nephew and heir to a peer, who was the son's schoolmate. Pretty much everybody in the novel is a fool, and none of them improve with time.
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